Ryde Memories by Alan Clarke
I am now 84 years old and I have many happy memories of staying in 64, Well Street at the end of World War II, when my mother and I came to Ryde. We stayed for the month of August visiting my step grandmother. Andrew Midlane was my grandfather and he had married again after his first wife had passed away.
I remember the fairly steep hill of Well Street and behind 64 was a field, which has long gone, where ponies would graze and come to the garden fence for sugar lumps. At the bottom of the hill, towards St. John’s Road Station, was a smallholding where a cockerel would always be screeching early in the morning, competing with the whistle blowing by the engine drivers… such wonderful memories.
These were the days of the paddle steamers docking at the Pierhead; the steam trains on the pier to Ventnor and Newport; I used to go fishing on Ryde Pier with my cousin and on one occasion caught a 2lb plaice, which was a lovely breakfast the next day.
I remember very vividly the day hostilities ended with Japan on VJ Day 15th August 1945, as for some reason, children were taken by Southern Vectis coaches on a Round-the-Island Circular Tour that evening. I can remember having some home-made cakes and pop at the Needles and seeing a firework display as well.
I would not like to tell you how many times I’ve rowed the Canoe Lake on the Esplanade as a teenager. I always enjoyed the Ryde Carnivals which were on the first Thursday to Sunday in September.
In 1955 I returned from attending an International Conference in Paris and stopped off in Ryde to stay with my cousin for the carnival before returning home to South Wales. There used to be a small orchestra which played for the holidaymakers in a shelter on the front gardens near the Esplanade. I was talking to the leader of the orchestra after one of their morning selections and he said that his vocalist had to leave to return home urgently to London. He was desperately trying to find a replacement as they were playing for the Carnival Ball in the Town Hall in a few days time. As I had been a lead chorister in an excellent church choir (the same church choir where Kathryn Jenkins started her musical career) I volunteered to sing at the Carnival Ball. I had a few hours rehearsal of two popular songs of the time and he was pleased to give me the chance. It was a great night and I still have the photo taken with the Carnival Queen, her attendants and the M.C. for the evening who came from Butlin’s Holiday camp in Brighton.
So you see Ryde has many great memories for me.
Photo of Well Street from RSHG Archive